September 24, 2008

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Avraham

Still low attendance. I must be doing something wrong. Publicize more?

Reels and Deals

Nadine 103, Jon 100, Avraham 61

Reels and Deals is a light card game with a movie making theme. The core mechanic of taking scripts and adding directors, actors, and effects to them before releasing them for points is like Traumfabrik. Like Traumfabrik, people come in star and non-star versions.

There are six types of cards: Scripts, Directors, Actors, Actresses, Producers, and Enhancements. In M:tG parlance, Producers are Instants, while Enhancements are Enchantments.

Each player starts with $12.

Each round you have three actions, which can be any of: draw and play a script (once per turn), draw another type of card, play a person (costs $2-$8), toss a person into the common talent pool (gains $2-$6), auction a person in the common talent pool (blind bids), play a Producer or Enhancement, or toss a card for $1.

Unlike Traumfabrik, you don’t play people directly onto scripts. You accumulate them in your private pool. Only when you cash in a script do you decide which people to use to fill its requirements. You must spend all three action points to cash in a script, which nets you usually between 20 and 60 points, as well as $0 to $15.

Producers gain you points, money, steal money or points, draw extra cards, interfere with other player’s actions, and so on. Enhancements must be played either on a specific type of person or on a script, and generally add points to the value of the item on which they are played. Each person added to a completed script adds points to the net value of the completed script.

The people and scripts are all thinly-veiled parodies of real people and movies, which some people might enjoy. Nadine found some of the illustrations and captions sexist, stereotypical, and mildly offensive.

The game is played until one person completes his second script, at least one of which is a “feature” script. Each other player then gets one bonus turn to play.

Reactions: While seemingly insubstantial, RaD is actually a fairly nice game, a solid filler. The core mechanics are fun. The decisions you need to make are not terribly difficult, but they are meaningful. You have to keep track of a lot of interacting parts and things change quickly. It’s a card game: luck plays a hefty role. This keeps the game moving. All in all it should take about 30 minutes to play for three players.

We only played once, so it may be that we don’t know exactly what we are doing. But there were a few problems.

The biggest one was that the vast majority of points will be scored from your two scripts. And the game ends one round after someone plays his second script. And you have to use your entire turn to cash in a script. So if your second script isn’t ready to go the moment someone else cashes in his, you’ve lost. That’s not really an enjoyable way to end the game. It may be that we undervalued playing even bad cards to our private pools, just so that we could be ready for such an event.

A few of the cards were not well balanced. One card stole 3 points from every other player and added it to your score. In a five player game, that’s a 15 point swing on a random card. Another card let you draw two cards. Since you paid an action to draw that card to begin with, it seemed like a waste of a card. I would have made it draw three cards.

A few of the rules also needed clarification. For instance, some scripts included “an enhancement” as a minimum requirement for release, but we weren’t sure if that meant an enhancement played directly on the script (probably) or if you could count an enhancement played on one of the people used in the script.

The game would also be more challenging if, when playing a person, you had to immediately choose to which script to play him. A private pool didn’t seem to be as interesting.

In our game, I completed my second script first, netting me a 15 point bonus. Nadine was able to finish her second script off on her bonus turn, but Avraham wasn’t, which put him out of contention. Nadine’s money reserve at the end swung the game.

Verrater

Avraham 32, Nadine 26, Jon 11

First play for all of us. This role selection in this card game is nearly identical to the Citadels role selection. I didn’t like Citadels, mainly due to the Assassin, and also due to the rather dull game play. Verrater is better.

Each player has an allegiance which flips whenever he takes the Verrater (Traitor) role. There are twelve keeps laid out in a circle, and in each of the 8 or 9 rounds, two neighboring keeps of differing allegiance will fight. Their strengths are valued as the inherent strength of the keep, plus added resources played by allies players, plus added strength played by certain roles. Highest valued keep wins, losing keep changes allegiance, and all players allied with the victorious keep gain vp’s.

Naturally, the fun comes from playing the resources, the possibility of some of the players having chosen roles that add additional strength, and the possibility that one player is the Traitor whose resources will switch sides at the last moment.

Other roles let you gain additional resources, place resource or vp producing cards, or become the player who selects where the battles will be.

Verrater is obviously best played with 4 players. In the three player game that we played, two against one was simply inevitable victory. Furthermore, less variance in the roles occurred simply because only three of the six were taken each turn (plus one not available each turn).

It’s fun. If you make a bad mistake like I did on turn 4, you are pretty much sunk for the rest of the game. But it was a really, really bad mistake. Note: don’t take the Traitor when you are going to be the first one to commit resources to the battle. Take it when you will be the last one to do so.

Avraham took a commanding lead due to my mistake, and kept it the rest of the game. That gives the game a slight kingmaking effect, which is a small drawback. Again: our first play, and next time we’ll play with four players instead of three.

Puerto Rico

Avraham 53, Jon 46, Nadine 39

First play for Avraham, so we gave him advice and attacked each other, which led to him winning. Nadine had a coffee monopoly, Factory and Harbor, but she didn’t draw corn until the end of the game. I traded nothing but sugar, but I managed to keep pace with the shipping. Avraham had the other Harbor, and good tobacco sales, so equaled the shipping but ended with a second big building to my one.

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